Cashback for Change – YDance

By Kelly Shearer
Head of Participation at YDance

YDance (Scottish Youth Dance) is the National Dance Organisation for children and young people in Scotland, offering young people all over Scotland the opportunity to realise their potential as individuals through dance.

Our CashBack for Change project, is funded by the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities initiative, which sees the proceeds of crime seized, and put back into the communities who need it most. Our project uses dance as a tool to engage and positively influence those most at risk of displaying anti-social behaviours and/or entering the criminal justice system and this is achieved through a programme of free weekly dance activities across three strands:

  1. In HMYOI Polmont, Scotland’s national holding facility for young offenders aged 16 – 21
  2. In targeted alternative education/secure centres, such as Kibble Education and Care Centre
  3. In communities in areas of multiple deprivation and/or higher crime rates

The project uses a person-centred, arts-led approach to enable a deep engagement as young people take part in activities that explore their emotions and the issues that affect their lives. The project has been developed through research and relationship building to ensure young people learn through and about dance simultaneously. Statistics published by Barnardo’s and the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice detailing the backgrounds of young people in custody at HMYOI Polmont show that 90% were excluded from school, 33% had been removed from family and placed in supported accommodation; over 60% have some speech/language/communication needs and at least 39% have a significant learning need or disability. Equally, young people in Independent Secure Centres are some of the most vulnerable and at-risk in our society. Specialist Intervention Services found that the average young person has experienced 4-12 adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Focusing on trauma informed practice, our teaching artists prioritise safety, trust, collaboration, choice, and empowerment in their sessions and are always committed to hearing the voices of the young people to inform and shape the journey of the programme. The efficacy of this approach has been recognised by Colin McConnell, Chief Executive, Scottish Prison Service who said, arts interventions “underpin improvements in the attitudes and behaviours which lead to offending through providing personal challenges and reflective practice for individual participants.” and the impact is felt deeply and widely by the young people we work with.

“I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my whole life and I cope with it relatively well, but performing arts has played a major part in helping me with it since I’ve been in here. I don’t know how I’d cope in here without it. I definitely want to continue with performing arts when I leave Polmont”. – Participant from HMYOI Polmont

“The support from YDance makes a huge difference to my life at the moment. I feel a lot stronger as a person since I started the classes. I get bullied at school, so these classes bring my confidence back up. It gives me something to do, there’s not much to do in my community outside of this because the people aren’t very nice.”  – Participant from Community Diversions

Find out more about YDance’s CashBack for Change project: